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I’ve written a lot about how we’re leaving plentiful resources untapped by failing to adjust our business culture to invite more women into leadership roles and how we need to transform The System to take advantage of our talents. In recognition of the fact that a company with women in roughly 30% of its leadership tend to produce healthier and stronger performing companies, there are lots of good programs out there trying to help women. But should we really wait for HR to come up with a great program?

Seriously – it’s not about the organizational development special programs. It’s about you and me and what we do every day to create the culture we live in – and to create a culture that welcomes the gifts women bring into the leadership ranks. All culture, including corporate culture, is created by the behaviors we tolerate and those we don’t. This doesn’t just apply to women. The strengths women bring to the workplace are also living within men, it’s just that the predominant culture doesn’t reward men for expressing them.

Men and women both bear responsibility for helping to lead their companies and also in creating a strong culture – no matter what their title is.

Personally, what can we do?

There are so many places to start, I say start where you are, whoever you are, and apply these tips to causing transformation in your workplace right now. When you take these small steps to transform yourself, The System around you begins to adapt. Infect your teams with these attitudes and just imagine the possibilities.

  1. Stop waiting for someone to give you permission – or training – to be the leader you are. You have talents the Culture that’s in such a mess doesn’t know how to teach you to use. Dig deep and use them anyway.
  2. Be your word. Learn the Art of Saying No so that your Yes’s are meaningful.
  3. Learn to speak truth to powerCEOs say they want this.
  4. Actively create the culture around you with the behaviors you do and don’t tolerate.
  5. Focus on the business – culture doesn’t mean squat if you have to shut the doors. (And if you have wealth, invest it according to feminine values.)

We can do this. It requires that we transform ourselves, which is hard, but there are resources. Use them.

The System, what can you do?

What if you’re one of those human resources or organizational development experts that is helping build The System that is both creating resistance to change and trying to transform at the same time? Be brave and stop buying into The System! Take your culture-making responsibilities seriously and be the cause of cultural change.

The System needs more urgency and to understand what’s at stake if it doesn’t jump headlong into transformation initiatives right now. We talk a lot about innovation like it’s some secret sauce that only some special people can produce, but innovation and transformation happen when we dare to risk what we have today for a better and brighter future. There are plenty of examples of what works and plenty of people skilled in transformation and innovation who can help you.

If you’re working in The System, be an individual who takes risks to challenge it. Follow the advice above, but use your broader perspective to explore systemic transformation. Stop playing it safe and be willing to make bold moves, fail fast and come out ahead.

What about my career?

I can just hear some of you (because I used to be this way) thinking, “well if I take risks to help my company, am I jeopardizing my career?” Truth? Companies are made up of people. A successful company is full of successful people. I don’t know anyone who considers themself successful and/or has a career they love who didn’t take a lot of risks along the way, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing but always coming back smarter.

Sure you have to be smart about when you play it safe and when you don’t, but the advice above is pretty much the same advice I’d give you if we were having a personal career discussion. No one’s going to give you power for sitting on the sidelines; you acquire power and success for getting in the game – failing, learning from your mistakes and succeeding to the benefit of the organization and others around you.

This post originally appeared on the Reclaiming Leadership blog. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, InPower Insights, for power-coaching advice, InPower surfing suggestions and recent blog posts.

Dana Theus

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